Monday, October 01, 2007

An Illicit Boycott?

The British University and College Union (UCU) has decided against a boycott of Israeli universities, and will not have members discuss the issue. Ultimately, that's the right decision (although why it's so terrible to discuss the question is beyond me). But the UCU's reasoning for doing so is disturbing: "The legal advice makes it clear that making a call to boycott Israeli institutions would run a serious risk of infringing discrimination legislation."

This is absurd. Discrimination laws don't prohibit boycotts against repressive governments. If that were the case, then the 1980s boycott of South Africa would have been illegal discrimination against white people. The outpouring of hatred against the UCU for even discussing a boycott (from Congress and others) has been amazing to me, especially since most of these people have never said a word criticizing Israel's extraordinary attacks on academic freedom, such as shutting down Palestinian universities. The UCU's solution was certainly flawed (but shouldn't be illegal), but the cause was right, and the fight for global academic freedom should continue.

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